Texas Projects State Funding for Schools to Drop as Local Revenue Grows

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Stephen Spillman for the Rivard Report

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath speaks during a Texas State Board of Education meeting in April.

An early projection has Texas decreasing state funding to public education, and largely using local taxes to fill the gap.

In its preliminary budget request ahead of next year’s legislative session, the Texas Education Agency projected a drop in the state’s general revenue for public education by more than $3.5 billion over the next couple of years, in part because the revenue from local property taxes is expected to skyrocket. General revenue only makes up part of the state’s education funding.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed this projection in front of a state budget panel Wednesday morning as he laid out the state agency’s budget request through 2021.

The Foundation School Program, the main way of distributing state funds to Texas public schools, includes both state general revenue and local property tax revenue. Local property values are expected to grow by about 6.8 percent each year, and existing statute requires the state to use that money first before factoring in state funding.

TEA staff members emphasized that the budget request is far from final, in part because current student enrollment numbers will not come out until later this fall.

Educator and parent advocates have pushed state officials to put more money into public schools, instead of absorbing local tax revenue into the system.

“The state needs to kick in their fair share,” said special education advocate and parent Heather Sheffield to the panel Wednesday. “Property taxpayers are fed up with the fact that the state is not funding public education.”

The budget proposal also includes additional funding requests for two key priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott: special education and school violence prevention.

In the wake of a spate of school shootings across the country, including one at a Houston-area high school this spring, the agency is asking for an additional $54 million to help schools provide students with mental health counselors, increase the number of law enforcement officers and armed teachers in schools, and help train school officials on keeping students safe.

The proposal also includes a request for $50 million to help school districts find and provide special education services for children Texas failed to help educate over the last several years. A federal investigation that concluded this winter found Texas had effectively capped special education, in violation of federal law, and mandated specific improvements.

Morath said that $50 million would likely be distributed to school districts in the form of grants in the next biennium starting September 2019.

Special education advocates and educators Wednesday asked for that money to be distributed sooner, and warned that hundreds of thousands more students are expected to qualify for additional services by 2021.

“If we do have an increase in student population, there has got to be a way to get that out to them sooner,” said Kristin McGuire, director of governmental relations at the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education.

5 thoughts on “Texas Projects State Funding for Schools to Drop as Local Revenue Grows

  1. I thought this state was about low taxes for its residents? As they continue to decrease their funding, it forces the local school districts to raise their taxes. The State of Texas is forcing a tax on us using the school districts as puppets to carry out the tax. The state constitution says the State will fund education not get other, smaller governments to fund education. To add further insult, when the state collects school district taxes for redistribution according to the Robin Hood formula, the state keeps any surplus money for themselves instead of equally distributing that money back to all districts. So the state is keeping portions of our property taxes, which again constitutes the state taxing us! I’d love it if the Rivard Report did a story on this last point!

    • David,

      What you say is true, but you also need to look at the way the counties, cities and school districts are using the county appraisal districts to increase the tax base so they can not increase the tax rate. Look at articles where school districts are stating they have not raised their tax rate. They did not have to because the county appraisal districts are raising the tax base.

      Just like the Wizard told Dorothy, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” In this case the man behind the curtain is the county appraisal districts.

  2. Unfortunately you are correct but we need to correct the problems from state on down and the biggest is education lets get this done correctly by addressing the problems that occur because of unequal education due to the systemic problems the occur in all districts. More money will help but lets put a line on senior administration salaries, if a superintendent fails to show competencies in moving a school forward his Superintendents certificate should be removed as well as removed from that position. You do not have to have super sized districts to have quality, you have to have leadership that guides and nurtures the education program to develop all children to the education they need.

    • It also takes districts that follow their own rules and save money where they can and not where it is more acceptable.

      The district my kids go to often fails to follow their own board policies when it comes to managing costs. I just look at the projects they do for capital investments and all the audits are on school finance.

      When I read commends from communications offices and quotes from superintendents is seems that the focus is to blame the state and not look internally for where they could use a Lean Six Sigma study or hire an optimization consultant to look at how everything but their finance department is doing.

  3. If the state is reducing funding then they need to stay out of the “management” of districts, especially in how they educate students.

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